N.B. The following written text in this blog-post Doctor Who and The Master’s Resurrection (Part One) is Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.
The Doctor is a Time-Lord whose home planet is known as Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. It is ostensibly located some two hundred and fifty million light years away from the earth. Although The Doctor is a mysterious wandering extraterrestrial traveller in time and space (the perennially unanswered question is: who is the Doctor?), he has through all his incarnations retained a benevolent fondness for human beings and the planet earth.
In Doctor Who the TV series several other Time-Lord characters have appeared. The first Doctor travelled with his grand-daughter Susan, and when the fourth Doctor was commissioned by The White Guardian to find the six-segments of the Key to Time, the lady Romana was assigned to be his assistant on the quest.
The Doctor has also encountered several renegade Time-Lords wreaking havoc on earth or other planets in his adventures. The main renegades include the Meddling Monk, the War Chief, Omega, Morbuis, the Rani, and most important of all, The Master.
Who is The Master?
The Master is a recurring character in the canon of Doctor Who TV stories. The relationship between The Doctor and The Master is comparable to that of Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty.
The Doctor and The Master began life together as childhood friends on Gallifrey and they were classmates at the Time Lord’s Academy. All Time Lord children are taken to a place referred to as the Untempered Schism, which is a gap in the fabric of time and space. There each child peers into the time vortex and has a glimpse at the whole of reality past, present and future. When The Master was initiated he suffered mental instability and was warped as one with psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies.
The Master has shown himself to be the consummate embodiment of evil using his mental powers as a hypnotist to control and destroy other humans. The Master’s great technical competence as a scientist and mathematician has usually led him to create weapons like the laser screwdriver, and the tissue compression eliminator which can shrink humanoid bodies to miniscule sizes.
The Master has also been adept at disguises and creating fake identities when infiltrating an organisation or institution such as in his role as Professor Thascalos at the Newton Research Unit at Cambridge University (see The Time Monster) and as Mr Harold Saxon who succeeds in becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain (see The Sound of Drums).
He is adept at being stealthy even among the Time Lords and successfully entered inside the Matrix on Gallifrey without being detected (see The Deadly Assassin). By the way, this story about The Master entering the Matrix (first broadcast in 1976) became a source of inspiration for the Wachowski brothers’ film trilogy The Matrix. Andy Murray points out that in all the chatter about the sources used by the Wachowski brothers that nobody has bothered to acknowledge that they borrowed the whole idea from the Doctor Who script-writer Robert Holmes:
‘The Deadly Assassin’ introduces the Matrix — a computer housing a vast array of information which, when interfaced with via a headset, takes the form of a surreal virtual reality world. The Matrix film trilogy (1999-2003) borrows this concept wholesale, even the name, but in amongst the discussions of the source of the films’ ideas — philosophy, Lewis Carroll, graphic novels, martial arts cinema — Robert Holmes is rarely given credit. (Andy Murray, “The Talons of Robert Holmes” in Time and Relative Dissertations In Space: Critical Perspectives on Doctor Who, ed. David Butler, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007, 230)
On several occasions The Master has plotted to control the earth or utterly destroy it, and has wreaked havoc in other parts of the universe in his megalomania to control the entire universe. In each of these attempts The Master has been thwarted by The Doctor.
The Master has also experienced regenerations (resurrection) but (as we will see next time in Part Two of this post) his power to be resurrected had clearly expired when he returned to his home planet Gallifrey in The Deadly Assassin. Subsequent stories indicated that he was desperate to cheat death and devised ways of sustaining his life, such as drawing on the Eye of Harmony (The Deadly Assassin), using the power of the Keeper (The Keeper of Traken), and taking over humanoid bodies (The Keeper of Traken, Doctor Who The Movie). The specific mention of the resurrection of The Master from the dead has cropped up in The Sound of Drums and The End of Time.
I’ll talk specifically about the resurrection of The Master next time in Part Two, stay tuned!